Recuperating from Elbow Surgery? What You Should Know

Elbow surgery.

If you are about to have elbow surgery, you may be wondering what to expect afterward. For many patients, the challenge is just beginning the day you arrive home. Recuperation can require a little patience, as well as active and informed involvement in your own recovery. There will likely be rehab and follow-up visits with your surgeon, not to mention alterations to your daily routine. 

Are you concerned you will be unable to perform your job? A comprehensive medical facility like MidAmerica Orthopaedics has a workers compensation program to assist patients who need to take time off of work. The most important thing to understand is that you have some control over how well your recovery proceeds and when you can get back to your daily routines. 

What You Need at Home 

There’s nothing like temporarily losing use of an arm to realize just how much you use it. In the days and weeks following surgery, many ordinary tasks may be more difficult than usual, from cooking to loading the dishwasher. Particularly if you live alone, a few simple adjustments can help you complete day-to-day tasks following your procedure. For example: 

  • Avoid soaking your elbow until your physician gives you the green light.  
  • Plan outfits in advance that are easy to put on and take off.  
  • As sleep is vital to a faster recovery, find out if you will need to have your arm in a particular position to sleep safely and comfortably. 

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Elbow Surgery? 

The time it takes to heal from elbow surgery may range from six weeks to several months. Factors will include how complex of a surgery it was, how large the incision is, your age, and what is being repaired. The more parts that need repairing, the longer it may take. Taking part in a rehabilitation program can shave off time needed to build muscle strength and mobility, but a broken bone still needs a certain amount of time to repair itself. To manage your expectations, ask your orthopaedic surgeon detailed questions before the big day. 

Ask Your Doctor about Exercise, Driving and other Routine Activities  

Routine exercise typically supports and hastens a patient’s recovery after an operation, but you’ll need to wait and see before hitting the gym. While movement is key to a healthy recovery, take extra caution with any form of exercise. Start with light activities such as walking. Keep in mind that it may be weeks before you can get behind the wheel of a car. Driving is typically not recommended until you are out of your sling.  

Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor pre-operation, as the answers will depend on your specific procedure. For example, after arthroscopic surgery in which no tendon or ligaments were repaired, immediate movement is generally encouraged, and many patients are allowed to drive once they are physically able and don’t experience too much pain.  

Prepare for Post-Surgery Rehabilitation (Rehab) Program  

Most patients are prescribed a physical therapy (PT) regiment following elbow surgery. Facilities like MidAmerica offer PT on site, making it convenient to attend sessions with a specialist who focuses on elbow recovery. You will likely be encouraged to do a PT at home, as well. This can be a crucial step in achieving lasting outcomes for patients recovering from elbow disorders. Your physical therapist will provide you with education and targeted exercises to complete at home while you heal. 

Many PT exercises can be done in a comfortable setting at home: 

  • Stretching 
  • Core strengthening  
  • Resistance training 
  • Balancing exercises 
  • Weight training with small weights 

Contact Your Physician for Help Managing Pain or if Complications Arise 

Even if you are doing everything right, recovering from elbow surgery takes time. In rare instances, complications can occur. If you are experiencing ongoing pain or discomfort, you may need help. Having a friend or family member help out in the early stages of recovery will help ensure you don’t reinjure yourself. And don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you notice increased swelling, a possible infection or other problematic symptoms.  

Elbow surgery patients at MidAmerica Orthopaedics have access to a team of award-winning physicians, the best tools and diagnostics in the field, and other helpful programs, right here on site. Our programs will help you recover quickly so you can get back to the activities you love. Give us a call at (708) 237-7200, or request an appointment online today! 

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